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article imageUniversity of Waterloo creates Canada's first problem lab

By Karen Graham     Feb 10, 2018 in Technology
Waterloo - The University of Waterloo is launching a new program to help students with the first step of entrepreneurial innovation - finding a real-world problem that can be solved with new technology.
At one time or another, all of us have come across a new concept or product and said to ourselves - "Why didn't I think of that?" The University of Waterloo has unveiled its new "Problem Lab" to help budding entrepreneurs overcome the problem, by learning to identify real-world problems that would benefit from real solutions.
The Problem Lab will be spearheaded by Waterloo economics professor Larry Smith and is made possible by $300,000 in seed funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, the co-founders of Blackberry, and now, the principals of Quantum Valley Investments, reports CTV News.
"Aspiring entrepreneurs are all too often left on their own until they start developing a solution to a problem or a venture to implement their solution," said Smith. "Without guidance, most entrepreneurs find their problems randomly, rather than strategically."
Smith adds, "Since the degree of success of an entrepreneurial innovation is directly related to the importance of the problem, the scale of entrepreneurial accomplishment becomes accidental."
University of Waterloo
Problem Pitch Competitions
Back in 2007, the University of Waterloo started the Velocity program to encourage and support startup entrepreneurs. Velocity has expanded to provide all manner of support for startups — including workplaces, finances, and advisers in software, hardware, biotechnology, and chemistry.
Velocity and the Problem Lab are collaborating in offering two Problem Pitch Competitions each term. The competitions provide financial awards to support the research and development efforts of those teams that demonstrate the most thorough understanding of their chosen problem.
The first competition, called the Open Problem Pitch challenges students to identify a commercially important problem of their choice and to demonstrate their understanding of this problem against competing teams.
The second Problem Pitch is focused on a particular type of problem. In the winter term, we will offer the Problem Pitch Competition for first-year students, focused on recreation.
Presentation of the awards will take place in a public forum before a panel of judges. The winners will share a prize pool of between $10,000 and $20,000 to invest in research and development related to their chosen problem.
In a press release, Mike Lazaridis said, "We believe that the Problem Lab and the Quantum Valley Investments Problem Pitch Competition will encourage students to focus on fully understanding a problem before venturing to solve it, and will lead to better ideas and strategies for new businesses."
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